Sexually-active college women need to be aware of rights, health risks

by Emili JohnsonStaff Writer

As a conclusion to the series on women’s health, it is very important to explore options that many women do not know they have. Sexual health and knowledge of certain sexually transmitted diseases and infections are very important to know about as well as making the right decision in a sexual partner. These options are not only for women, but men should follow them, too, in order to have a healthy sex life.

For women, one highly recommended way to stay healthy is to have regular physical exams and pap smears. At these exams, routine screenings are done to ensure your health. The good thing about these exams is that they can be done at a family doctor or at a local Planned Parenthood. Also available at Planned Parenthood are the various methods of birth control such as the pill and an IUD, which is an intrauterine device that is inserted by a doctor or physician.

Rita Audlehelm, director of student health services, widely encourages women on campus who are sexually active to keep up with these birth control methods as well as physical and gynecological exams.

“If you are sexually active, you need to provide some protection and it’s a barrier method that works the best,” Audlehelm said. “Birth control pills will keep you from getting pregnant, but they have nothing to do with preventing STDs [or] STIs, so you need a barrier method such as a condom or a female condom.”

Audlehelm also mentioned the importance for young women to get screened for certain forms of human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can lead to certain forms of cervical cancer. The latest vaccination to hit the market is called Gardasil and vaccinates against four types of HPV.

“It’s very important, especially if you become sexually active, because you are exposing your body to other people’s bodies so you need to be checked,” Audlehelm said.

Another key to good sexual health is knowing your partner. This means having a conversation with you partner about who they have been sexually active with in the past.

“When you sleep with someone, you sleep with everyone they have slept with. I think the thing of the matter is that if these sexually transmitted illnesses go undiagnosed, then there can be some long-term effects,” Audlehelm said.

Women should also know their rights if they are sexually assaulted or raped. According to a study done by the health education program at Brown University, one in every six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

Rachel Bandy, Ph.D. and assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice has a qualified background in sex crimes. Bandy formerly worked at three police departments in Colorado, Minnesota and Utah. In Colorado and Utah, Bandy worked as a victim advocate. In Minnesota, she worked as a sex offender notification coordinator.

According to Bandy, she feels that it is too often that young women in college experience types of sexual assault.

“The most common scenario usually involves being at a party, getting drunk and waking up in some guy’s bed,” Bandy said. “A lot of women- and men- do not realize that having sex with someone who is passed out, or intoxicated to the point where they can’t give consent, is sexual assault.”

Bandy also mentions that a woman needs to know that if she is sexually assaulted or raped, she is in control of what happens next. She also said that a woman should find a trusted friend who will listen and support her.

“She can choose to pursue a criminal case or to receive medical attention,” Bandy said.

In seeking medical attention, women have the option of going to the emergency room for a medical exam and also to file what happened.

“Hospitals now have available sexual assault nurse examiners who are specially trained to treat rape victims and to collect any physical evidence of the attack,” Bandy said.

In these unfortunate events, it is important for women to come forward for various reasons. In a way, by coming forward, the perpetrator cannot get away with the crime.

“Victims of sexual assault often believe that they are the only one who has experienced this crime; that they must have done something to bring it upon themselves,” Bandy said.

On Nov. 27, Ellie Olson, director of counseling services, held a campus-wide self-defense program to teach young women, and men, how to defend themselves if this event were to happen.

“The program provided a reminder of the risks women in particular are faced with and provide some information about how to reduce those risks,” Olson said.

Olson also mentioned there can be some serious psychological effects if this event were to occur.

“Some of the common immediate reactions include shock, disbelief, anger, shame and fear,” Olson said. “Then [women] will move into periods of denial where they convince themselves that the assault wasn’t a big deal.”

It is very important for women to know that they have control over their sex life. There are various methods of birth control and it is important to protect your body. Know your rights and know that you have control.

? Remember to have annual physical exams and pap smears and know who choices you have when it comes to birth control

? Remember that you have total control of you sex life

? Know and study the Simpson Sexual Assault and Harassment policy which can be found of the Simpson Web site ? If you are sexually assaulted or raped, remember that you have total control of the situation and remember to surround yourself around people that will support and care about you

? According to Professor Bandy, remember to “trust yourself, respect yourself, and love yourself. You deserve to be safe, you deserve to be respected, and you deserve to be treated well”